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COVID-19 surge impacts sheriff's offices, dozens sickened

The surge is now impacting law enforcement agencies across Hampton Roads.

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — The increase of the omicron variant is impacting those who respond to emergencies.

“We are faced with what I call indomitable odds, it seems like,” said Newport News Sheriff Gabe Morgan.

Eighteen Newport News deputies are COVID positive out of 230 on the force. While it doesn’t seem like a lot, Sheriff Morgan said it affects the day-to-day operations.

He said, “We are doing mandatory overtime, we are limiting leave and vacation time and we are consolidating operations where possible.”

Like many other cities and counties, Newport News Sheriff's deputies work the jail, the courts, and the streets. Last year, Sheriff Morgan required the COVID-19 vaccine for all staff. The office also added its own rapid testing.

“We’ve gone back to checking temperatures, we’ve limited the radius that our employees can leave without quarantining if they go outside a 71-mile radius. They have to quarantine when they come back.”

Sheriff Morgan said he’s doing everything he can to slow the spread of the virus within the agency. He said deputies are stepping up to make sure the job gets done.

“That’s it,” he said. “We are going to show folks what right looks like no matter how short we are. We are going to show people what right looks like in the face of this pandemic.”

Other Hampton Roads Sheriff’s Offices are also seeing an increase of positive COVID-19 cases:

  • Suffolk Sheriff’s Office has one COVID positive case. They have about 45 deputies on the force.
  • Norfolk has 17 positive staff members out of a total of 404 people staff members.
  •  Virginia Beach has 33 sheriff’s deputies out with the virus out of 403 deputies on the force.

“We certainly have to be flexible with our staffing and I know there are times when if we have a lot of call-outs on a team because people are sick, supervisors might have to put their gloves on and kind of get back in the trenches so they do that whenever they need to,” explained Kathy Hieatt, a spokeswoman with Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office.

While the Virginia Beach Sheriff’s office hasn’t required the COVID vaccine, leaders do recommend it. They do not have a travel policy.

Hieatt said deputies are stepping up to make sure the job gets done.

She said, “We are confident that we will get through this surge and continue to do the important work that citizens expect us to do.”

13News Now reached out to police departments in Hampton Roads to see how many officers currently have COVID-19:

  • Suffolk Police has 13 officers out sick out of 169 officers currently on the force.
  • Hampton Police has nine officers with COVID-19. It has 294 sworn officers.
  • Chesapeake and Virginia Beach couldn’t comment due to it being a personnel question.
  • Portsmouth Police released a statement saying, “The safety of the public and our employees is our highest priority. Once vaccines became available, we worked with the local health department to ensure that all of our employees had access to the vaccine. We encouraged our employees to get vaccinated and facilitated appointments. We continue to follow CDC guidelines and encourage vaccinations, boosters, and social distancing. We also require weekly testing for those who are not fully vaccinated.”